Blog Book Tour | “The Shepherdess of Siena” by Linda Lafferty

Posted Thursday, 14 May, 2015 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin.

Acquired Book By: I originally found BookSparks PR last Spring, when I came upon the Summer Reading Challenge a bit too late in the game. I hadn’t forgotten about it, and was going to re-contact them this Spring to see if I could join the challenge this year instead. Coincidentally, before I sorted this out, I was contacted by one of their publicists about Linda Lafferty’s Renaissance historical novel.  I received a complimentary copy of “The Shepherdess of Siena” direct from the publicist at BookSparks in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

I will be blogging about my contributions and participation in the Summer Reading Challenge 2015 because something quite remarkable happened to allow me to read the first six novels of the ten I selected to blog about. Mum’s the word until I post a very special edition of ’10 Bookish / Not Bookish Thoughts’!

On reading about the Renaissance and stories about strong women:

I fell in love with Renaissance Italy as a child, swept away by the artisans and artists during the re-genesis of creative voice and freedom of expression across their societal divides. The Renaissance is fraught with drama depending on where you alight during it’s different periods of time, but one thing remains: the will of the people to not only overcome what is happening but to dig deeper into a well of strength to overtake what is wrong and shift forward into the future on a sturdier path towards change. It was an incredible time in history, and it is the stories of the people that I am always drawn towards most when I pick up a historical work of fiction.

To tuck inside a commoners or royals life, seeing what they might have seen or felt what they might have bled out of their hearts whilst surviving or yielding to the fray of the hour. Historical fiction I find is enriching because it presents a different worldview than our contemporary timescape; it knits together ideas and motivations to conquer issues which have had lasting results even in our own generations. I like seeing how the people rose to the occasions they were presented with living through but moreso to that end, I like reading about their ordinary lives. Even a royal family at the end of the day are merely who they are behind closed doors — the circumstances of their royal origins do not limit their curiosity but rather increase it, as who are they when the world is not looking?

On the opposite end of it, I love unearthing little unknown pockets of the historical past, elements of how time, life, family, and evolution of thought can expand itself into a boiling stew of passion and declaration for liberty to live on one’s own terms. Strong women in fiction is awe-inspiring, but my favourite preference is finding the women who lived so very long ago held within them a chalice of strength written into the fiber of all women before and after them.

Blog Book Tour | “The Shepherdess of Siena” by Linda LaffertyThe Shepherdess of Siena: a novel of Renaissance Tuscany
by Linda Lafferty
Source: Direct from Publicist

The Shepherdess of Siena takes us to the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside in a lush drama of untamed horses and wild hearts played out in historic Siena.

Linda Lafferty, bestselling author of The Bloodletter’s Daughter, releases her fourth novel The Shepherdess of Siena. This riveting new novel is based on the real life tale of Virgina Tacci who at age fourteen rode the Palio Horse tournament in 1581 bareback. Linda’s love of all things equestrian and her extensive travel to Italy paints a vivid picture of Tuscany with passion and truth.

Raised by her aunt and uncle amidst the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside, young orphan Virginia Tacci has big dreams of competing in Siena’s Palio horse race. As a shepherdess in sixteenth-century Italy, her peasant class and her gender supremely limit Virginia’s possibilities. Inspired by the daring equestrian feats of Isabella de’ Medici, who rides with the strength and courage of any man, Virgina’s dreams don’t seem so difficult to reach.

The Shepherdess of Siena brings alive the rich history of one of Tuscany’s most famed cities and this lush, captivating saga draws an illuminating portrait of one girl with an unbreakable spirit.


Genres: Biographical Fiction, Historical Fiction

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Published by Lake Union Publishing

on 31st March, 2015

Format: Paperback

Pages: 616

Published By: Lake Union Publishing
Available Formats: Paperback, Audiobook, and Ebook

Converse on Twitter via: #ShepherdessOfSiena

About Linda Lafferty

Linda Lafferty taught in public education for nearly three decades, in schools from the American School of Madrid to the Boulder Valley schools to the Aspen school district. She completed her PhD in bilingual special education and went on to work in that field, as well as teaching English as a second language and bilingual American history.

Horses are Linda’s first love, and she rode on the University of Lancaster’s riding team for a year in England. As a teenager, her uncle introduced her to the sport of polo, and she played in her first polo tournament when she was seventeen.

Linda also loves Siena, Italy, and the people of the region and has returned to the city half a dozen times in the past three years to research her novel. Linda is the author of three previous novels: The Bloodletter’s Daughter, The Drowning Guard, and House of Bathory. She lives in Colorado with her husband.

Lafferty's Author Page on Book Browse

Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission.

Listen to an Excerpt of the Novel:

Listening to Chapter 1 ahead of reading:

This is one of the few audiobook excerpts I’ve listened to where the narrator did not read exactly what was on the page, in regards to Chapter Titles, Headers, and Introductory bits of information contained on the top part of the first page where the novel begins. Secondly, the narrator has such a harried rush to her voice, you feel for her trying to compose the clarity of her words whilst attempting to focus on how to get the first paragraph contained on audio feedback. If I could be critical, this is one audiobook that needed an editing of ‘pace’ and of approach for the readers who want to soak inside this historical world.

To me, audiobooks are a format similar to radio plays of the centuries where television was not even a wink of a whisper on an inventors mind. You want to approach the novel your listening to with a keen awareness of it’s tone, inflection, and the styling of the narrator who approaches the world and the character they are bringing to life with a reflective pause; a way of stilling you into a quiet space of where your mind can filter out your own reality and soak inside the author’s.

A bit spoilt on other excerpts of audiobooks, I find myself drawn to specific styles and of specific voice actors who can convey a novel so eloquently realistic, as if I were to question is it fictional or is it a lived life retold? I was a bit put-off on how this one began, but I kept at it, and by the middle of the second paragraph, I found the narrator easing up a bit on the rushed haste and letting us absorb her words rather than feeling as if we were in dire need to ‘fitting’ into a deadline of allotted time.

The inflections of how Italian names and words are heard aloud was a blessing in disguise as linguistics is a side hobby of mine, but it isn’t as readily known how a word is heard in a foreign language (outside of your natural tongue) if you do not have an audio clip to hear how it’s pronounced. I had to smile about how the narrator chose to shift roles per each character alighting on the page; my favourite voice by half were the narrator’s omnipotent role. Except to say, the role of the ‘goose lady’ was quite charming!

My Review of The Shepherdess of Siena:

A young girl greets us as Siena opens to acquaint us with the way of life in Senesi – typical of the era of time or of any small province where you have conflicting families or dynasties of ancestral heritage there are rivals and alliances throughout the world in which Virginia was bourne. Her ease of companionship with her parents is quite apparent, but her near distrust of whom she is meant to interact with stems from her father’s criticism of their neighbours. It is a foreshadowing of how her life was prior to the death of her parents; small fragments of a young girl’s early childhood years followed by emotional strife and sorrow.

Four years shift forward to the day from whence we enter Virginia’s life, now a Shepherdess of the tender age of six, being appreciated by a painter. I find this quite interesting because Italy has such a rich history of artisans, artists, and creative economists it did not surprise me in the least to find a painter amongst the supporting cast or background narrative. When the point of focus goes to Virginia’s spirited personality, I reflected back on my viewings of Flicka (2006) as I happen to appreciate reading and watching horse dramas with regularity. It started when I was a young Equestrian learning Dressage but it staid with me longer than the riding did due to how portable a book or a motion picture could transport me back into the world of horses and riders alike.

It is interesting now that I am taken up to reading historical novels set in Spain and in Italy, the cross-references I am noticing between the two cultures; the people of both countries truly have a heap in common, not just in their mannerisms or approach to living, but they both have a certain fire inside their souls. They take-on life living through their passion(s) and approach everything with such a fierceness as if to light aflame a breath of fire straight out of a dragon! I had to smile when I recognised this similarity and how keen it is to have a newfound connection to reading time specific and location specific historical fiction outside England and France.

I loved how a heated row between brothers and an independently minded sister (Isabella de’ Medici) gave a window of an opportunity to emerge forward into view: Virgina saw for the very first time how a woman could command a horse and own the mount only men dared to admit possible. Inspiration alights unexpectedly in everyone’s lives, but how keen is this? Just as it could be in any person’s ordinary life, a moment out of step with the normalcy of old sparks a seed of a thought not ready yet to germinate.

The bond between a horse and a human is such a sacred connection, and Lafferty lifted the gravity of this bond to a tender height of compassion when she united Virgina and Orione! It was such a beautiful passage to read, it shall stay with me! When you ride a horse, your connecting to someone who is as willing as you are to knit together a friendship that is unspoken yet felt intrinsically by heart. It’s a special moment to realise you’ve connected to a horse, whose friendship is a cherished eclipse of joy for any girl (or boy) to feel.

I loved seeing the shifting points of view moving between the two interior worlds of caste: we dip and glide inside Isabella’s life whilst on exchange from Virginia’s as the two women (although one still yet a child) have a thread of conjoined passion; each of them is resolute in their fiery belief to be as independent as they dare. Isabella takes a shine on Virginia due to how her station of class is not subduing her commitment to enter a race (the Palio) only men are allowed to join whereas Isabella is the rider who lit alive a dream Virginia defiantly believes in being possible. Each of them have their own crosses to bear, as even Virginia’s homelife is not one that inspires courage but rather one that curates resilience. Isabella is unfortunate that birth right and marriage alignments are more important than love and compassion. It is interesting seeing how their paths continue to cross in ways that befit them and the manner in which commoners and royals can interact.

Not since I watched Virginia’s Run (2002) (an Indie film starring Gabriel Bryne) have I become so dearly attached to a girl aching to ride and to be one with the horse her heart has entrusted her spirit to become united. Virgina (of Siena) has the same kind of moxie, a will set alive by fire to learn despite her faults and rise above her situation. The draw for Virginia to tame her fears whilst giving into lessons by a source she felt shocked to learn cared about her at all, gave her the chance to strive towards a spot in the Palio. It is one thing to admire a horse from a distance, it’s quite another to forge an alliance which aides in the pursuit of one’s dreams.

Virginia’s dreams of achieving the status of a horsewoman were married by treachery and secrecy for there were those who conspired against her. Her life became a fragmented ‘unknown’ layering of a past she could hardly forget but could no longer prove to have been lived. The flickering time spent casting shadows and angst into the lives of people she knew as a child were only half the end result of how far certain people would go to keep her barred from society. What was quite incredible is how the tender innocence of her joy amongst the horses proved her worth and her legacy, but it came at such a stringent price that I am not even certain if in the end, she would repeat it as it had played out.

There is a labyrinth of routes to yield too as the search for Virginia overtakes the urgency she had to live free as in the end it is freedom that became the underscore of the novel’s heart. Freedom to not only live but to breathe in a life where you were the one who owned your own destiny without the forsaken zest of those who only sought to oppress your memory.

On the writing style of Lafferty:

Passionate historical fiction such as the styling of Lafferty makes reading such an extreme joy as a reader because your wholly hitched inside this world for the duration of the novel. You beg for more time with Virginia and with the environ in which she is living because the clarity of her plight and the life in which she has succumbed to live after tragedy is knitted tightly into a story outside of time. You feel as if you’ve become a part of Virginia’s own spirited heart as she doesn’t not understand the barriers placed in front of her in a time where caste and station were everything.

I credit this passionate connection to the tone and undercurrent of how the narrative arches over lead and secondary characters, whilst giving you such a firm grounding of what is running inside the thoughts of Virgina at the very same time. It’s a unique view to step into a sheperdess’s life on the fringes of them discovering that there is a whole ‘other world’ just outside of their own experience. Where the discrepancies between those in power and the commoners under their rule are constantly rotating near each other without truly seeing each other for who they individually are; acceptance of differences is not a commonly known occurrence.

Lafferty has found a clever inroad into the historical past, as her characters speak Italian in places where it is decidedly a fixture of merit and she etches into the back-stories a knowing awareness of what is seen in the area in which the novel is set. It is a humbling tapestry to convey such a story as to bridge the gaps between two girls bourne into two separate worlds within the same country. I appreciate her manner of style and the conveyance of what is each girls’ reality.

This is historical fiction you don’t want to rush through — you want to wander through it slowly as if you were sipping tea and drinking in a story which alights slowly through your mind’s eye, allowing you to appreciate it’s telling without the foreknowledge of how or when it shall end. To guide you and inspire you at the same time, whilst giving you an experience you ache to repeat.

Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission.

This blog tour is courtesy of: BookSparks

The Shepherdess of Siena Blog Tour via BookSparks

Be sure to visit my Bookish Events for (2015)
to see what I’m hosting next!

Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission.

Comment Box Banner made by Jorie in Canva.

{SOURCES: Cover art of “The Shepherdess of Siena”, author photograph of Linda Lafferty, book synopsis and the tour badge were all provided by BookSparks and used with permission. Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission. Comment Box Banner made by Jorie in Canva. Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin. Book Excerpt was able to be embedded due to codes provided by SoundCloud. Buy links on SoundCloud are not affiliated with Jorie Loves A Story.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2015.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2015 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Thursday, 14 May, 2015 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, 15th Century, Audiobook, Audiobook Excerpt, Balance of Faith whilst Living, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, BookSparks, Catherine de Medici, Catholicism, Coming-Of Age, Father-Daughter Relationships, Grief & Anguish of Guilt, Historical Fiction, Horse Drama & Fiction, Indie Author, Isabella de' Medici, Italy, Library Love, Literary Fiction, Literature of Italy, Local Libraries | Research Libraries, Nun, Orphans & Guardians, Religious Orders, Renaissance Tuscany, Sisterhood friendships, Soundcloud, the Renaissance (14th-17th Centuries), Tuscany, Vulgarity in Literature, Women's Rights

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